McConnell Smith

The last thing any of us wants to do is to corral or stifle an entrepreneur’s individualism.

Growing up in Cleveland in a working class family instilled McConnell with an aversion to entitlement. That’s helped shape his relentless work style—among other things.

Working class hero

My hero still is my uncle David. He struggled to graduate, slept on his brother’s floor...and finally persuaded someone to give him a job as a trader. He’s been a managing director at a bank for more than a decade now. He proves you don’t need a pedigree to achieve your dream.

A long day’s work that’s worth it

If I was going to be sitting at a desk working on a sector for 16 hours a day, why not focus on something that fascinates me? Something I could form a tangible connection with.

The huddle

Playing football my whole life taught me how to thrive in a team environment and how to channel my competitive drive to further the goals of the group.

To be as successful as they are they have to be a little crazy and stubborn—but they’re also exceptionally passionate.

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You look like a guy who was into sports as a kid.

Until I was 15, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be an NFL quarterback. Unfortunately, I was alone in that belief.

So your early heroes were Montana, Manning, Young?

As much as I loved them, my hero was, and still is, my uncle David. He struggled to graduate from a small rural Ohio school, moved to Chicago, slept on his brother’s floor, and finally persuaded someone to give him a job as a trader at the Merc. He’s worked his butt off and has been a managing director at a major bank for more than a decade now. Not that title is a measure of success- I just think he proves you don’t need a pedigree to achieve your dream.

That sounds like something you learned from your own family.

I grew up in Cleveland. My mom came from a blue-collar, hard-working family and I have like 25 cousins on her side. Even though my parents afforded me a lot of tremendous opportunities, I’ve always retained that aversion to entitlement that my mom and her siblings instilled in me.

And now you work with a group of individualistic, hard-working founders and entrepreneurs who also share that aversion to entitlement.

Exactly, and I think the last thing any of us wants to do is to corral or stifle that individualism. To be as successful as they are they have to be a little (or maybe a lot) crazy and stubborn– but they’re also all exceptionally passionate and know how to communicate their excitement.

I take it the founders’ stories really resonate with you.

I could be deathly allergic to peanut butter, and I’d still eat a Justin’s peanut butter cup after hearing Justin talk about how he came up with the idea.

Wow. That’s brand power. So consumer products excite you more than, say, industrial chemicals?

To me, it wasn’t even a question– if I was going to be sitting at a desk working on a sector for 16 hours a day, why not focus on something that fascinates me? Something I could form a tangible connection with.

Sounds like you’re a guy who values making a connection with brands, with entrepreneurs, with your co-workers…

Playing football my whole life taught me how to thrive in a team environment and how to channel my competitive drive to further the goals of the group– how to subjugate myself for the good of the team.

Like eating Justin’s despite your deadly peanut allergy.

Whatever it takes.

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